Tennis pro Maria Sharapova has been focused on the game for 28 years, but now, she’s finally ready to say goodbye.
Sharapova picked up her first racket when she was 4 years old, spending quality time with her father, Yuri Sharapov, in Sochi, Russia. He was her first instructor and remains her biggest fan.
From then on, she was addicted to the game, and every year, she surpassed her own expectations.
Speaking of her first Wimbledon tournament — which she attended when she was just 17 — Sharapova says she “didn’t understand the magnitude of my victory until I was older — and I’m glad I didn’t.”
“One of the keys to my success was that I never looked back and I never looked forward. I believed that if I kept grinding and grinding, I could push myself to an incredible place,” she writes.
After Wimbledon came the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and the French Open. She never stopped fighting for more. Every win her more confidence in herself and in her abilities.
“My edge, though, was never about feeling superior to other players. It was about feeling like I was on the verge of falling off a cliff—which is why I constantly returned to the court to figure out how to keep climbing,” she writes.
“These courts revealed my true essence. Behind the photo shoots and the pretty tennis dresses, they exposed my imperfections—every wrinkle, every drop of sweat. They tested my character, my will, my ability to channel my raw emotions into a place where they worked for me instead of against me. Between their lines, my vulnerabilities felt safe. How lucky am I to have found a kind of ground on which I felt so exposed and yet so comfortable?” Sharapova continues.
After years of persevering and collecting gold medals on the court, Sharapova admits her body aches began to become a distraction. She was constantly in surgery, constantly numbing her muscle pain, constantly attending physical therapy. She says that over time, her “tendons have frayed like a string.”
She admits that her struggle with physical pain is nothing new in the world of professional athletes. While she often questioned whether it was all worth it, the answer was always yes.
“In giving my life to tennis, tennis gave me a life. I’ll miss it everyday,” Sharapova writes. “Looking back now, I realize that tennis has been my mountain. My path has been filled with valleys and detours, but the views from its peak were incredible. After 28 years and five Grand Slam titles, though, I’m ready to scale another mountain—to compete on a different type of terrain.”
Now, the tennis star is anxious to enjoy the simple pleasures in life: spending time with her family, taking sporadic weekend vacations, enjoying dance classes, sipping on a warm cup of coffee on a slow morning.